Spoiler alert: this recap is for people watching 演替 season three, which airs on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK. Do not read on unless you have watched episode one.
The Roys are back in town. 和, in the words of Logan himself, they’re going full fucking beast. After winning multiple awards and copious new fans during lockdown, the return of HBO’s foul-mouthed family saga had become autumn’s most heavily hyped TV launch, complete with PR stunts and red-carpet premieres. Gladly, its series opener – the punningly titled Secession – didn’t disappoint. This was an episode without grand set pieces or spectacular locations, instead mired in the dirty detail of corporate double-dealing. A testament to the Rolls-Royce writing, it was all the more thrilling for it.
No “six months later” nonsense here. We picked up mere minutes after that biblical backstab of a season two finale. After media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) chose second son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) as his “blood sacrifice” – the “head on a spike” to appease shareholders spooked by the historic abuse scandal in the conglomerate’s cruise ship division – Kendall flipped the script in a live TV press conference by pointing the finger back at daddy dearest. A killer cliffhanger, not to mention a declaration of family war.
War was the word. In an opening sequence reminiscent of the Ride of the Valkyries sequence from Apocalypse Now, two helicopters flew the Roy clan and their inner circle back from their superyacht sojourn, over Balkan mountains as craggy as Logan’s brooding face. What was the wounded old warhorse thinking? And where were they heading? “Either New York or Geneva or London or Singapore or LA,” said general counsel Gerri Kellman (J Smith-Cameron). Helpful.
After coming down from his adrenaline buzz in the bathroom, Kendall emerged to marshal his forces: “OK, action stations. Let’s get into this.” Trouble was, his forces currently comprised hapless Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), charged with media monitoring (“The Pope followed you. Oh wait, it’s not the real Pope”) and wavering Waystar Royco PR chief Karolina Novotney (Dagmara Domińczyk), soon jettisoned by Kendall because he “can’t have weevils in the flour sack”.
With his access revoked at Waystar HQ and his own apartment swarming with press, he redirected their vehicle downtown. Greg was agog: “This is like OJ. Except if OJ never killed anyone.” “Who said I never killed anyone?” teased Kendall in a chilling reminder of the Chappaquiddick-esque car crash which claimed the life of his passenger in season one. “Juice is loose baby!” High on patricide, or having some kind of episode? Possibly both.
He needed a “hidey hole”, so set up camp with ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold). Awkward. It only got weirder when he invited his girlfriend Naomi Pierce (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) to join them. Cosy.
Kendall met crisis PR consultant Berry Schneider (Jihae Kim) and talked right over her. His manifesto? “Fuck the weather, we’re changing the cultural climate.” He mansplained that he wanted “the BoJack guys” to create some “off-the-hook cool tweets” to position his brand. Like a billionaire David Brent, his ideas were excruciating.
In the airport lounge, Roman (Kieran Culkin, his hair getting more louche by the minute) and Shiv (Sarah Snook, all cream separates and side-eye) wondered if the paterfamilias was “toast”. Gazing out of the window, Logan asked: “Did you know he was going to do that?”
They assured him that they were also blindsided by Kendall. The grizzled silverback rallied. First he offered the traitor a way back: retract and they could strike a deal. When Kendall rejected the olive branch, Logan snarled “I’ll grind his fucking bones to make my bread” – a message relayed by unflappable PA Jess Jordan (Juliana Canfield).
Now it was Logan’s turn to call “action stations”. Gerri advised him to cooperate with the Department of Justice. Pixie-ish provocateur Roman gave the counter-view: say Kendall’s an unreliable junkie, exploiting abuse victims for his own careerist ends. Shiv argued that Ken had “changed the game” so playing hardball was too high-risk. But Logan was bullish by now – let’s go to the top and get “the raisin”, AKA the president, to pull some strings. Textbook Murdoch-esque power move.
The leader of the free world didn’t want to get his hands (or the White House phone logs) dirty, so the ever-capable Gerri conferred with senior aide Michelle-Anne Vanderhoven (Linda Emond), AKA “the pantsuit barnacle”. She was blandly supportive, but warned that the attorney general was a straight-shooter who could cause trouble, making Logan antsy.
Logan chose the Bosnian capital as his destination, due to its non-extradition treaty with the US. Shame. It could’ve been the Vatican. He dispatched his ragtag gang to various corners of the Waystar empire. Shiv, Roman and Gerri returned to New York. COO Frank Vernon (Peter Friedman), CFO Karl Muller (David Rasche) and son-in-law Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) stayed with him. The Roy siblings have ridiculed Tom for his dodgy dress sense before. Here he was stuck in red chinos and a quilted gilet, like a provincial visitor at a National Trust property.
Damningly, Logan initially forgot to find a role for eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck). Poor, pathologically useless Con. On the jet to Sarajevo, Logan instructed his lieutenants on the message to media, shareholders and the wider world: “Play it smart today and you won’t look a cunt tomorrow.” And what to tell the DoJ? “It’s war. Fuck off!”
Logan wanted high-profile lawyer Lisa Arthur (Sanaa Lathan) in their corner. A woman was good for “optics”, 毕竟. Dispatched to secure her old friend’s services, Shiv was irate to learn that Lisa was already representing Kendall.
As he told Lisa: “My dad’s the devil, he runs a crime ring and I’d love to hire you to take him down. This will be the case of the century and the highlight of your career. They’ll make a movie about you.” Quite the pitch. Lisa calmly clarified her brief: “You want to take down your dad without implicating yourself and without damaging the company to the extent that you lose control at your shareholder meeting?” Yep, that’s about the size of it.
When Logan heard he’d been pipped to the legal post, it’s fair to say he didn’t take it well. He vowed to hire “tough motherfucker” Leo Upton (who I can’t wait to meet) to go “scorched earth”, before angrily striding off into the Sarajevo night, suddenly looking every one of his 80 年. Is the gnarly old fighter on the ropes?
After two series of jockeying for position, a new interim CEO was finally appointed. And deliciously, it wasn’t one of the Roys. Roman put his pitch in, before immediately talking himself out of the job. Tom tried to “hustle, baby’” on Shiv’s behalf but failed dismally, which will hardly help the tensions in their marriage.
Logan wanted a woman but Shiv had just let him down with Lisa. Step forward, cult heroine Gerri: a safe pair of hands, and clean from any connection to the cruises scandal. No wonder she rebuffed the advances of frisky puppy Roman. Eyes on the prize, Gerri Spice.
Even amid all the politicking, the Roy siblings couldn’t resist winding each other up. Roman called Shiv to break the Gerri news by crooning a song he’d made up on the spot: “Your friend doesn’t like you, boo hoo / Your dad wants to fire you, woo hoo”. Who said he wasn’t ready for responsibility? Shiv, now doubly incandescent, ordered her driver to change direction. The game was afoot.
A weekly section where we’ll chart who’s in prime position to take the corporate crown. Gerri’s the anointed successor for now but Kendall is on manoeuvres, and don’t rule out Shiv after that late switcheroo. En route to team up with her “disingenuous fuck-doll” brother or launching a leadership bid of her own? Watch this leather-upholstered space.
As always, Jesse Armstrong and co’s script was crammed with quotable dialogue, from Kendall’s “slide the socio-political thermometer up the nation’s ass” to Connor’s plan to market girlfriend Willa’s flop off-Broadway play on a “whole hate-watch angle – jump on the irono-cycle, make it a thing for the hipsters and the dipshits”.
I also enjoyed Logan snapping, “Wanna suck my dick?” and Romulus adding ruefully … “Is what he said to his son as the sexual assault allegations poured in”. But the prize goes to Karl’s succinct summary of the corporate crisis: “Senate, FBI, SEC, class actions, plus Sandy and Stewy … that’s the full Baskin-Robbins 31 flavours of fuck right there.”
No binge-viewing here, no matter how much we’re jonesing for our next fix – episode two airs at 2am (simulcast with HBO in the US) and 9pm Monday on Sky Atlantic. Rejoin us afterwards for more full-beasting action. 同时, please leave your thoughts and theories below …